A new post for Whose World Order – cut a bit awkwardly, but oh well.
Date: 11th April 2011 | Author: Raffaello Pantucci,
Take, for example, a visit earlier this week to a Shanghai government official with some visiting ECFRers. The meeting itself was par the course for Chinese government officials – we got the party line and not much else. One amusing thing did stand out for me, however, and that was the painting of Pudong’s skyline that filled one wall behind the main two chairs (Pudong is new Shanghai, and up until the mid-1990s was mostly flat). This is a picture of Pudong’s current impressive skyline:
An addition to this painting, however, was this building:
The building, which is going to be the crowning jewel in Shanghai’s skyline is, still under construction (I could not get a picture of the actual image in the room since I did not have my camera with me). They broke ground before the Expo, only to shut it down for the six months of the Expo and then re-start work at a frenetic pace. At the moment it is a stub in the ground, with cranes popping out of it and an intended completion date of 2014. But what is interesting is that in the Shanghai government’s mind, this building is already a done deal. That might well be true, but at the same time we are dealing with a nation that has been plagued by all sorts of problems. Shanghai might be pretty efficient, but slapdash efforts have caused problems in the past. I know of one of Shanghai’s glass buildings that has lost four large window panes that were not stuck in properly. Each one was about the size of two doorways side by side, and would have killed anyone they hit on the way down – fortunately, they missed.
So is the municipal government simply trying to save money by pre-emptively including this building in its artwork, so that it doesn’t need to spend money on interior re-decoration in three years? Given how cheap and plentiful art material and artists are, this seems unlikely. Instead, the painting is a symbol of China’s most ambitious and bullish city reaching for the stars in its usual rampant manner, something reflective of the nation’s general sense of itself.